Alice O. Howell   




       She was an almost daughter of spring

 and the leaves she wove

 fell all through her fifteen summers

     always too soon

 all her moves seemed blighted

               her bicycle had three flats:

                a concerto of failure on concrete


                         she sang off-key at sixteen

      wept over her mother's lonely coffee-grinds

              clumped and decaffeinated

     in the dirty white plastic pail


she was myopic, poetic, and fat

              and those last seasons were

     a composition of pain

 four movements in Hoboken:

         the opening motif to the left of a hangnail

     a green rubber bookstrap

 and no Wordsworth, yet promising something

     unique to her teacher

         an andante of disordered gloom

     the despair of a city in March

         yet tintinnabulating snownotes

     and percussions of a hope


        the allegro brought another spring:

     hayfever and itching eyes

                  she lay across her bed with

         swollen sinuses and vulva

 as generous as an unpicked poppy

                    in some forgotten Elysian field

         she slept in tears and innocence


        the allegro ma non troppo

     gave a crescendo of flutes and jonquils

 when she took her little brother

         to the pond in the park

  watched his plump black knees and listened to

            his labored breathing

as he sailed his clothespin boats

            and her great heart

        like a clumsy hill

    burst with a tenderness  no music could bear!


Let any conductor anywhere raise his baton this hour

       and play for her a requiem

        for that unseen beauty held

like a  brave green balloon against

    an awkward and embarrassed sky!


        even the paper

    messed up the three-line obituary

            that two cousins read

        the day after the funeral

which neither would have attended.